Dornoch holds off Mindframe to win the 156th Belmont Stakes in an upset

The Triple Crown season is over. Three races, three different winners. No clear star in the making.

Or maybe three of them.

Dornoch etched his name into thoroughbred history by winning the 156th Belmont Stakes, a race run for the first time at Saratoga Race Course in mid-state New York.

At 17-1, not much was thought of the 3-year-old colt who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby following a fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes. But on Saturday, in a 10-horse field, he challenged Preakness winner Seize the Grey on the front end of the race and as other horses started to fade away, Dornoch kept going, winning by a half-length.

Mindframe, who had run only two races coming into the Belmont, finished second, followed by the favorite Sierra Leone, whose late-running style couldn’t make up the ground he needed to. The remainder of the field was Honor Marie, Antiquarian, Protective, Seize the Grey, Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, The Wine Steward and Resilience.

Dornoch paid $37.40 to win.

“He’s one of the top 3-year-olds in the country, which is what we thought,” winning trainer Danny Gargan said. “I got him beat in the Blue Grass [Stakes]. Today we let him run his race and he won. If he gets to run he’ll always be tough to beat.

“The Derby we broke a little slow and we rushed up and we were cut off and that was it for us. We got lucky today and had a clean trip.”

Confidence always has been high surrounding the $325,000 purchase, whose ownership group includes former Dodger Jayson Werth as a minority partner.

Clearly there was no Triple Crown on the line at this year’s Belmont Stakes, but if the same horse had won the first two races, there would have been a huge discussion about a possible Triple Crown containing an asterisk. The Belmont Stakes is usually a 1½-mile race, called the test of champions. It might be the only time in a horse’s life that they will run 1½ miles on the dirt.

With the race moving to Saratoga because of major construction at Belmont Park, the race was made 11/4 miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby. Since the circumference of Saratoga is smaller than that of Belmont, the New York Racing Assn. decided to shorten the race so that the horses wouldn’t have to break on a turn.

The race will be at Saratoga next year too.

While there were no California horses in the Belmont Stakes, Bob Baffert-trained horses made their mark in the undercard. National Treasure proved to be very dominant in winning the $1-million Metropolitan Mile by 6¼ lengths. The 4-year-old clearly has emerged as the best horse in Baffert’s barn with wins in last year’s Preakness Stakes and this year’s Pegasus World Cup. He was second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, losing by a nose to Cody’s Wish, who went on to win horse of the year.

Baffert was not in New York but stayed in Southern California.

The pressure was coming from Hoist to Gold, who finished third. White Abarrio, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was never a factor, finishing fifth in the six-horse race.

National Treasure had been off for 105 days since finishing fourth in the Saudi Cup in February. The colt paid $4.70 to win. Post Time finished second.

Baffert had two other horses on Saturday’s stakes-rich card. Prince of Monaco finished second in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes at seven furlongs. Prince of Monaco was making his first start of the year after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 3.

Imagination, coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Preakness, was equally disappointing on Saturday, finishing seventh in the 11-horse race.

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